great lakes satelliteAsian Carp are an impending ecological disaster for the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater resource in the world, and it is the responsibility of federal and state agencies to protect this important ecosystem. An Asian carp working group made up of multiple Federal and state conservation partners has concluded that immediate action is needed to stop the carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

Current Situation

The electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) will be shut down for two to five days in early December for routine maintenance, providing an opportunity for the Asian carp to advance up the canal toward Lake Michigan. The electric barrier is currently the only protection against carp entering Lake Michigan via the CSSC. eDNA evidence suggests the Asian Carp are already very close to the electric barrier in the CSSC and are also present in the Des Plaines River and I & M canal.

The Rapid Response Plan

A task force of federal, regional state and local agencies has developed a Rapid Response Plan to address this impending threat to the Great Lakes.

In response to the increasing threat of the Asian carp expansion toward the Great Lakes and these fish placing greater pressure on barriers already in place to restrict their movement, the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup was created. The purpose of the Workgroup was to assess the current situation and recommend courses of action should a rapid response be necessary to deal with Asian carp in areas of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, Des Plaines River, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal. In preparation for such a response, the Asian Carp Rapid Response Plan was created. At the request of partner agencies, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has agreed to coordinate response actions and to serve as lead agency during response Operations.

The purpose of this plan is to establish, coordinate, and document actions by IDNR and its partner agencies to reduce the vulnerability of the Great Lakes to an Asian carp invasion via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) and nearby bodies of water including the Des Plaines River and the Illinois & Michigan Canal (I&M). In the short term the purpose of rapid response measures, i.e. piscicide treatment, will accompany barrier maintenance, relieve pressure on Electric Barrier I (within the Lockport Pool), confirm presence of Asian carp previously detected through eDNA sampling and analysis, evaluate the feasibility and utility of applying piscicide in the CSSC to reduce or eliminate Asian carp populations, and validate the effectiveness of utilizing NIMS ICS concepts and principles of response for this type of effort via a multijurisdictional approach. In the long term permanent tools, such as piscicide treatment, would need to be implemented to mitigate the risk of Asian carp accessing Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

This plan outlines the responsibilities and support of federal, state, and local agencies, as well as partner entities. The plan also describes the response procedures necessary for protecting and maintaining the integrity and safety of the Great Lakes ecosystem, and ensuring the health and safety of responders. These aims will be accomplished by implementation of the following actions:

  • Confirmatory identification and increased surveillance efforts
  • Selection and isolation of target areas to maximize control or eradication of Asian carp
  • Examination of the pros and cons of all response options
  • Provision of risk communication, notifications, health alerts, and public information to all necessary audiences
  • Coordinated rapid response in the target area to control the upstream spread of Asian carp via the CSSC and nearby bodies of water
  • Post-treatment monitoring to ensure thorough response.

Subsequent to the initiation of any actions in conjunction with a rapid response an Incident Action Plan (IAP) will be developed. The IAP will include the following:

  • Operational objectives and briefing information
  • Organization and chain of command
  • Available resources
  • Status updates
  • Additional safety/hazard information.

This rapid response plan focuses on three locations along the Des Plaines River, Illinois & Michigan (I & M) Canal, or the CSSC (Appendix A, Figures 1 through 5), including the divergence into the CSSC and beyond. These locations are:

  • Lockport Lock and Dam to River Mile (RM) 296.7 encompassing the following:
    • Areas between the electric barriers
    • Scenario of Electric Barrier shutdown or maintenance
  • Des Plaines River at RM 297.0 upstream to RM 302.5
  • I & M Canal from its confluence with the Brandon Road Pool of the Des Plaines River to the Cal-Sag Channel convergence

In the future it may be necessary to plan for rapid response actions encompassing the area beyond the electric barrier system to Lake Michigan, however at this time an effective treatment plan for this area has not been formulated.


Through the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup, the State of Illinois, with support from federal and local agencies, and other private entities will implement procedures and actions to protect and maintain the integrity and safety of the Great Lakes ecosystem from an Asian carp invasion via the CSSC, and to ensure the health and safety of responders and that of local personnel and residents.

Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to Close for Fish Barrier Maintenance

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